Sunday, February 19, 2012
I am loved. It's very moving and reminds me of the wealth in my home. It is truly wonderful to receive.
So I'm sitting here today trying frantically to put together a late email for our church, and she walks in and eagerly asks me if I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Feeling the gurgle in my tummy already from the taco dip I just ate too much of for lunch, I'm about to say no, and I see how very excited she is to make this doggone sandwich. So I say, "Well, I am not too hungry, but if you make me one, I'll take a bite to see how good it is, and maybe we can wrap it up for later before church...?" She nearly sprinted from the room.
Its a few minutes later, and Sara Groves' song, "Honesty" is on.
...Here in the stillness where thoughts are born,
Here in the frailty, we're tattered and torn. Tattered and torn.
Here in confession, here in our mess.
Here in the places we're mostly undressed. Mostly.
Oh honesty, oh honestly
The truth be told for saving of our soul...
I'm thinking about Paul's comment in Colossians 1 regarding Epaphras' report on the Colossians' "Love in the Spirit." I'm thinking about how Jesus said all of the Law and Prophets hang on this one thing. I'm racking my heart and head, praying and leaning and talking a lot to God about how to communicate what it means for us to "love in the Spirit."
I'm coming up with this series of actions to take... things we have to do and things we must not do... I'm thinking about all of the wielding we have to do.
Just then my bedroom door quietly swings open to reveal Moriah, her two small hands holding a plastic yellow plate with this peanut butter and jelly sandwich that she made by herself... and she has this gigantic-huge smile on her face. Its hard to describe the quiet joyous care with which she walks across the room to place this gift on my desk.
I took a bite and showed how wonderful it tasted, then I asked if I could bag the rest and she burst from the room with the plate and sandwich saying, "I'll write your name on it too!"
A few minutes later, she comes back with the sandwich perfectly situated in the middle of some generic ziploc, with my name written across it... with J capitalized and backwards. It was perfect.
I received love in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with my name misspelled, and it was wonderful. It helps me love her more to receive her love.
Sometimes the deepest ways of loving are about what and how we are receiving it of others.
Isn't this what we are all really doing anyway? Receiving this beautiful gift called mercy from the Author of all things? It seems to me that with all of the focus on doing in Christianity, we forget the receiving we do.
All this purpose-driven everything that we keep reading about and striving for sometimes dances too closely to the output-based doing and consumer-driven mentality of a broken world.
Not always, but often enough.
Often enough to forget that in all honesty, all loving... real loving... starts with loving God. And last I checked, there is one heck of a lot of receiving that we do from Him. And good grief, if I could just learn to stop for a moment and receive from Him in all honesty and love... honesty about myself and love for who He is, I'd probably be that much closer to learning how to love others better.
Maybe even loving myself better.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So pick up your peanut butter and jelly, take a bite, and receive.
You are loved.
So much more than you can imagine.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Have I told you this before? Stop me if you've heard this. (No Mrs. Lane, I'm not talking to you. Nor any of you, Lane children. You must re-endure my stories.)
We lived in Utah in this apartment complex with these four huge buildings (this is my memory talking so go with it) lined up across this really big expanse of parking lot and field.
We lived in the building on one end, and two buildings away was the playground, where I would often play by myself.
Yes, I know right! Back then you could play as a youngster out of the line of sight of your parents.
I had this great paper airplane I had made and brought with me to the playground. I was playing by myself, so there was no risk of it being stolen or stepped on by some goober neighbor kid named Gordy with poop in his pants and boogers in his nose.
I really don't resent my local sworn enemies of my childhood, I swear.
My plane could fly so far. Maybe none since have ever flown as straight and long as that piece of Mead paper folded into what I thought was an F-4 Phantom.
So it was great, that's my point.
I threw it, and it flew so far that it went straight through a chain link fence near the apartments, landing just out of reach on other side of some prison-style enclosure, clearly designed to keep people out of wherever.
But I wanted my F-4 Phantom... I had worked hard on it, so I decided to climb over the fence (it wasn't too high, even though it was definitely taller than me) and go get my awesome plane. I figured I was really good on the monkey bars and all the girls had said I was the best boy on those they had seen in a long time (which, in elementary school most likely was like a lot of recesses.)
I imagined myself scrambling up to the top of the fence, looking down victoriously to see my playground sweetheart Heather Waddell watching in awe (she wasn't there but its weird what we think) and clapping as I heroically saved my paper airplane from the clutches of the yard it was laying in.
Yeah well best-laid plans.
As I was making my way across the top, I lost my footing and slipped hard, catching my wrist fully on the barbs at the top of the fence. They cut into and got caught deep in my wrist, and for a few seconds that seemed like eternity, I was swinging with all of my weight on this barb that was fully an inch into my arm.
I think I can spell what was going through my mind at the time. It involves a long string of capital A's lined up with several exclamation points at the end.)
I was finally able to pull myself up enough to free my wrist from the fence, or free the fence from my wrist, and I could see bone and muscly veiny stuff in my arm, and I screamed with all of the blood, pain, etc...
I walked home very scared and freaked completely, holding my wrist and the flaps of skin, blood all over, screaming at the top of my lungs every step.
My parents heard me two buildings over, and met me somewhere in between. They held me, rushed me to the hospital, I got stitches, and eventually the world folded over on itself again and it felt safer eventually.
To this day on my right arm is this scar that looks very much like something very broken people have tried to do to themselves. Its smaller and less intense - looking now, so that is a good thing.
But my scar has really nothing to do with it. I want to get to the part about the screaming, the hearing and the meeting somewhere in between.
Truth is, I was just a hurt kid... scared and frustrated and angry and hurt and overwhelmed... and I needed to be held, healed, and saved from whatever I had done to myself.
And my parents heard me from far away and met me somewhere in between.
We are each in our own ways, scared little kids... frustrated and angry and hurt and overwhelmed... and we're all needing held, healed and saved from whatever we're doing to ourselves.
In an age when the Gospel is twisted daily into something that makes mega-buildings, talented bands, laser lights, smoke, programs, properly-worded doctrinal statements, well-oiled church services, a budget in the black, smiling people, hometown values and nicely-groomed yards the priority of the church...
It is this ... the busted-up and scared child who comes running... this is still the good-news-story of Jesus.
Mk 2:17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
(And for the love of God, please don't read into that, "come to Jesus and clean up your act"... it is so much more beautiful than this. There is so much more healing.)
People who come to Jesus authentically, do because they have come face to face with themselves hanging on the fence in the playground alone, wounded and scared... and they witness Him come running even when we've gotten ourselves into this mess chasing paper airplanes.
He comes running to hold, heal and save us from whatever we've done, has been done to us and/or we are doing to ourselves. I cannot think of greater news to share.
Which is nothing like the news that says:
- Your Christianity is best reflected in your politics.
- It's about how cool a church is.
- You too can be like us!
- God is into behavior management.
- "There will be a test". (Oh that billboard makes me want to throw up.)
- Your sins are worse than mine.
I believe we are to center Mercy Hill Church on being a place of safety for the broken, the wounded and the not-so-prettily banged up people of our communities.
I believe that if we can do this for the tired, marginalized, scared and hurting, then we are doing what we are supposed to do.
He graces me, he graces you. Him and her and all of those in between, the ones who know and who don't know, there is something beautiful waiting... eagerly waiting... to be seen by those who don't believe they are worth seeing or they are worth celebrating or they are worth...
Even as I write this, I am picturing a young woman I know miles and miles east of me who needs to know that she was deemed by the Author of all things to be someone worth dying for.
Still she stands frozen there next to the fence, afraid to look at her wrist, at the blood and the muscles and the veins because the ways that she's wounded really really scare her. She stands there looking around afraid to scream because somewhere inside she has accepted the the message she received from what was once her church: what you do to yourself is not worth Him running to.
What an unfathomable lie.
It is time to form a church of these people that know these people... because we are these people. It is time to form a church that runs to. Because many of us remember what it's like to see Him running to us.
With forgiveness and with celebration.*
Moreover, with Jesus. Let's offer Jesus to the broken.
He's better than whatever airplane folks have been chasing anyway.
*last week at MHC we talked about the celebration surrounding the prodigal son's return! so much grace.